Archive for the ‘kids’ Category

the coolest house on the planet

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Bursting with pride today! Not for myself but a friend. A smart, ridiculously talented young architect by the name of Benjamin Garcia Saxe, whose personal project just made him the winner in the house category of the 2010 World Architecture Festival. That’s world, people. Winner of the whole freaking world!

Take a look at the magical creation he crafted for his mother in Costa Rica in his spare time. All photos by Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via…

Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via

Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via

Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via

Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via

Andres Garcia Lachner Fotografia via

All that and much more to enjoy here — read what inspired him, it really gives the project a lovely human spirit. According to yesterday’s announcement

The jury immediately sensed that this project, designed  by Benjamin Garcia Saxe Architect, was a potential winner, and were left in no doubt after the architect’s presentation.

Yay! Ben got his Master of Architecture at RISD in 2007. We know him because we entrusted his beautiful and equally talented wife Erika with our most valuable possession: Bix. She took great care of him from the age of 8 months to 3 years at our home and theirs. After Ben graduated, they moved to London where Erika pursued dance and Ben went to work doing great things for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, I’m sure.

The last time we saw them, Ben gave us this amazing plywood sculpture for Bix…

bix’s sculpture via

bix’s sculpture via

We love that piece and will treasure it forever! I’ll be sure to post a photo of it in Bix’s room, where it lives.

Congratulations again, Benji. I hope you and Erika are sipping champagne tonite!

dirt bag

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

boy digs dirt

With Spring on its way, I decided it was time to put the boys on a science project: get the soil tested. There are plenty of reasons to do this…

  • to determine soil quality so our plants will be healthier — is it acidic, neutral or alkaline?
  • to find out how much we need to amend the soil and with what

It’s unlikely that we have a lead problem here but I suppose it’s wise to find out while we can do something about it easily — before the garden goes in.

We’re sending our  dirt bag to UMass to be tested. Dirt bag, heh heh. If you’re somewhere else, your university’s local extension office will do it for you. I’ll let you know the results in the next week or two!

boy collects dirt

conflicted in kid-dom

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Our friends are always asking if we’ve made progress in the kid’s room. No wonder. The move was two years ago, which means Bix has spent nearly half his life in a mess. So we tackled his room first, hoping to create a calm, fun place away from the remodeling storm. I like the result. But I’m also conflicted about it. Argh.

Starting with what we already had

Luckily, we moved in with most of the stuff we used, including mandatory KidKraft train table, some chairs, and the drawers and bookcases David built when Bix was a baby…


I see the drawers need a little readjusting but you get the idea. We used Sunflower Seed Board from Van Beek’s in Michigan. Here’s a closer look…

closeup of sunflower seed MDF

It’s an eco-friendly MDF made from pressed sunflower seed hulls. LEED-certified, no formaldehyde, no outgassing. Finished in a simple water-based poly. Makes us feel good.

David had made the drawer fronts using a laminate we thought was fun enough for a kid but easy to like as an adult…

Formica in matte finish Beluga (#3697)

We debated about the environmental friendliness of laminate and decided that because drawers see a lot of grimy little fingers and can take a beating that the sunflower board can’t (without getting chipped, that is), it made sense.

Attack of the madwoman with a paintbrush

Before we could hang the furniture on the wall above the heaters, I had to scrape off the babyish wallpaper border that went all around the room, prep the walls and paint.

early room view 3

To encourage drawing, I decided on kid-height chalkboard walls around the perimeter. I taped off the space…

chalk board prep 1

Used a dab of caulk along the bottom of the painter’s tape for a nice, clean edge. Then filled in my lines with four or five layers of chalkboard paint to make it extra durable.

chalk board prep 3

I was hoping to tie the chalkboard to artwork we commissioned our friend Ryan Lesser to make a few years ago (click to biggify if you care to)…

wide shot, finished chalkboard


chalkboard finished

more artwork from Ryan Lesser

Those are a few more characters by Ryan.

I brought the tentacles around the corner and over onto the adjoining wall behind the door…


I maybe went a little overboard carrying the “bubbles” look from the laminate onto the wall…

glossy bubbles on matte paint

I used high gloss paint in various tints of white (some bluish, some greyish, some super white, etc.) on top of a matte oatmealy white. The anal part: I used round container lids in three sizes, dipped them into the paint and then pressed them onto the wall. Looks good when the light hits it. David thinks it’s too busy. Just wait, it gets much busier.

Bunk bed in a closet

The dressers are more than adequate storage for the wardrobe of a 5-year-old — with plenty of room for toys, too. His closet was wasted space, so we decided it was a smart spot to fit a bunkbed with storage underneath. Great for sleepovers someday, or the occasional guest.

In order to be twin-bed length and last Bix well into his teens, we needed to make the space a little longer…

closet build-out

David extended the closet space by about 6″ and added some serious mass loaded vinyl sound-proofing to the walls. The occasional mid-construction reading break was called for…

demolition break

Then he put in new drywall and spots for lights for both bunks.

finishing the drywall

He drilled crazy long wood screws into the studs for extra support.

building bunk bed supports

Hang on a sec and I’ll show you the finished bed. Keep your pants on.

Paint overload

Building out the closet ruined  the edge of my paintjob. No biggie. Easily camouflaged with a little sanding and some paint in a contrasting pattern to trick the eye. I did a color study using various shades from around the room — Benjamin Moore zero-VOC Natura paint so I could feel reasonably okay about sticking to our eco-friendly principles…

paint swatches

First, I taped off a floor-to-ceiling strip for magnetic paint (not so eco-friendly, I’m sure). The Ben Mo’ semi-gloss can go right over the top to dress it up, so I taped off cubes to echo the Ikea paper lamp hanging in the opposite corner…

taping off the magnetic board

So the result?

bunk beds and magnetic board

I matched bunk bed walls to the aqua in the bookcases. The magnetic strip brings in all the colors of the room. Recovered the shade of the West Elm lamp I picked up for half price. I’m liking how circles vs. squares turned out.

closeup on lower bunk

Aqua pillowcases from Area we already had. Added the illustratey one and cushy flannel sheets from Garnet Hill. Organic blanket and a quilt picked up at West Elm. Roll pillow half price from Unison. Sales rawk.

full shot bunk bed

The underbed drawers we stole from one of the dismantled dressers David made for Bix’s baby room. As Bix gets older, we could decide to pull out the bottom bunk and put in a desk. Or add a clothing rod under the top bunk. It’s a very flexible space. And the whole thing could easily become a closet again if need be.

etsy pillows

Pillows from two great etsy sellers: Spruce Home who works in some great vintage fabrics and Alexandra Ferguson who uses 100% post-consumer recycled felt. A nice comfy back for a little storytime action.

Shins “monster” art from Tad Carpenter...

Shins monster

painted border around art

Such a paint addict — I thought it needed a border. As a side note, that’s not glass inside the frame. It’s plexi. Globe lights are also plastic and not glass. Just in case, ya know.

monsters in a barrel

Barrel found at PB Teen at a get-it-outta-here discount of 75% (years ago, sorry). So many uses but for now, all things stuffed.

On the way over to the book nook…

bookshelves viewed from bed

Trish Grantham painting

New painting by Trish Grantham and Frank Kozik figures from Kid Robot over the dresser.

nice grassy pillow for sitting and reading

A grassy knoll pillow for reading, repurposed from the living area.

looking up at bookshelves

We bridged the space between bookshelves with cheap Ikea corner shelves, which added even more storage.

vintage Fisher Price “little people” toy collection

Vintage Fisher Price “little people” toys collection. Thanks, eBay. I always wanted an A-frame.

mechagodzilla and godzilla

Mechagodzilla and Godzilla — gifts from Bix’s friends “the Godzilla girls.”

dinos on a shelf

Bix’s true love: his dino shelf.

vintage Fisher Price record player

Vintage Fisher Price record player came with six “records.” Priming him to be a DJ from a very young age. eBay.

vintage Fisher Price “radio”

Ancient Fisher Price “radio” still works. eBay. I’m getting repetitive, sorry.

the Seuss section

The Seuss section.

’zilla feet, licensed by Toho

Godzilla feet from Toho for stomping through the house.

Charles S. Anderson poster circa 1990

On the other dresser, a leaning Charles S. Anderson poster hides a hideous air conditioner. Dated ’89, although I picked it up at a paper show in Houston years after that. It’s a French Paper sample Bix insists he must have in his room because up above King Kong…

Godzilla on King Kong/C.S. Anderson poster

there’s a tiny Godzilla. I cannot deny him.

gremlins on the turntable

Gremlins on the crappy eBay turntable that came with about a zillion records to add to those we already had.

bix listening to records

And now we’re back to the corner where we started! Only now somebody’s appreciating the joys of vinyl. Good boy.

What’s left undone

Still to come: the ladder and top railing for the bunk bed, replacement baseboard and trim here and there…

need new trim around the window

a wood ceiling (to cover the popcorn ceiling) and wood floor. Can’t wait to get rid of that hideous toxic carpet, too.

Why I’m conflicted

Had really hoped this room would be super “green,” seeing as it’s our child’s room. Sustainable materials, great.  Completely thrilled with the organic mattresses — beautifully made and comfy. Eco-conscious paints, very good, but so much paint, right? And it amazes me the shizzload of plastic in this room! On the one hand, much of it’s vintage — we’re keeping plastic out of the landfill, yay. On the other hand, it’s still plastic. Oy.

So I give myself an 85% on achieving my goals for Bix’s room. Granted, I’m a harsh grader.

Valentine’s Day card from Orrin

Orrin made Bix a Valentine. So cute. Thanks, Orrin!


Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

The snow is blowing sideways at about 35 mph right now. They’re calling it Snowpocalypse, but I think they’re overestimating this little winter blast. Still, it’s a good excuse for a quick dose of color therapy.

vintage pluto

Orange makes me happy. Thanks, Pluto! And hey… sorry Goofy got clothes and a voice and you just get to be a regular dog.

godzilla ravages juvie modern

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

I should just get this out of the way: I’m a breeder. There, I said it. Whew! That explains the 5-year-old in the background yelling, “I want to play Godzilla ravages Tokyo NOW, please!”

Bix reflected, CB2 Soho

Bix, meet reader. Reader, meet Bix. Now that the introductions are out of the way, I’d like to mention his role in 
this house remodel. I have a short list of mandatories for any changes we make to our house with him in mind…

1. Modern, yes, but livable modern. I don’t believe in living in a museum and I don’t believe in the constant anxiety that comes with accommodating the preciousness of things. Instead, the design and the material have to accommodate us. If we can’t touch it, breathe on it or get a little peanut butter on it, then it shouldn’t be in our house.

2. Life is messy. Design so the mess is easy to eliminate or even avoid. I’m a realist… we have a child. Children have toys. Children like to play with toys. Some tripping over toys is inevitable. To avoid a contentious relationship with my child and his beloved toys, he needs his own place for his own things. In a small house, storage is akin to happiness.

3. Green is for inside, not just outside. Just because we can buy it in bulk at Home Depot ridiculously cheap doesn’t mean we should. What’s in it? Where did it come from? We intend to be extremely conscious in our material decisions — because what you don’t know can kill you or make you very sick, and because tiny metabolisms make children more susceptible to the effects of chemical exposure. And gosh darnit, isn’t the planet having a hard enough time as it is without us making things worse?

4. Outside is not just for looking at through a window. This house was built with an almost-full second lot that has NEVER been taken advantage of. The lot has been a rock-strewn slope unfit for entertaining adults, much less children. This may be the biggest thing to change. We’ll be using our yard year-round, which means we’re going to need easy access, a safer play area… and let’s not forget a little something for our bird, bee and butterfly friends.

5. It has to grow with us. We’re only 10 years way from Bix’s 15th birthday. I know that sounds like fuh-evah away but when remodeling this is something to keep in mind. We want to think ahead and make this evolution easier on all of us.

6. It has to be creative. This means being resourceful in order to accomplish 1 through 5. And it also means that we want to build an environment that encourages imagination, where a kid (and his grownups) can flourish.

I’ll be checking in from time to time to see how closely we’ve been able to stick to our goals. Yeah, uh-huh. Good luck with that.

zilla says hi